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Read about headsets.

Headsets leave the multi-tasker's hands free. [©Jupiter Images, 2010]
©Jupiter Images, 2010
Headsets leave the multi-tasker's hands free.


Headsets are a combination of standard headphones and a microphone. They are typically used on the job by office workers who require use of both hands and who are frequently on the phone, such as in call centers. Headsets are increasingly used in the home by people who make telephone calls using the Internet (with voice-over IP, or VOIP, technology) and by computer gamers connected with a player in another location, both of whom need hands-free capability.

Types of Headsets

PC Magazine explains that most headsets have only one speaker, but some come with speakers for both ears.

The types of headsets vary significantly according to the ways they are used and the devices with which they are used. When selecting a headset, first determine the type of device to which it will be connected: a corded phone, a cordless phone, a cell phone, or a computer. Depending on the device, a user can select from corded headsets, wireless headsets, cellular headsets and computer headsets.

Corded headsets use a cord to connect either directly to a telephone or to an amplifier. Cordless headsets, by contrast, connect wirelessly and do not use a cord. Cellular headsets either plug into a cell phone directly using a small cord, or they connect wirelessly using Bluetooth technology.

A number of wireless headsets use encryption technologies to transmit their signals for more secure phone calls. Sending digital signals means the signal is less likely to encounter interference and can be encrypted easily to prevent eavesdropping.

Computer headsets connect to a computer using either a sound card or a simple USB port.

Headset Styles

Headsets come in several different styles. Two of the most popular are called over-the-ear and over-the-head. Over-the-ear headsets do not use a headband and do not constrict or press down head in any way. Over-the-head headsets use a band that goes over the head to keep them in place. A third style of headset is convertible, and can be used either over-the-ear or over-the-head. Some headsets are reversible, meaning that the speaker can be worn over either the left or right ear, depending on the users preference.

Headset users frequently make their buying decision based on the range of motion offered by the headset, which can differ significantly. When discussing wireless headsets, the range of motion refers to the distance between the user and the phone while still maintaining acceptable sound quality. A good cordless headset has a range of about 300 feet.

For corded headsets, the range of motion refers to the length of the cord. One advantage to a shorter cord is that it is less likely to get tangled or caught. Some corded headsets have a feature that enables them to be disconnected from the cord quickly and easily. This is useful if the user needs to retrieve a file, for example, even in the middle of a call. The user can disconnect, move away, and then reconnect the cord back to the headset without having to use the hold button.

Headset Components

According to Headsets.com, when selecting a headset, users should examine the component pieces to determine what best meets their needs based on their environment. For example, a standard microphone works well in quiet offices, but is less effective in loud or very busy office settings. Noise-cancelling microphones emphasize the speaker's voice while minimizing background noise and work well in any office setting.

The other component is the earpiece that covers the speakers. These are available in rubber, leatherette or foam. Foam is standard on most headsets. A slight upgrade is foam with a leatherette covering. Leatherette headsets are more comfortable because they are soft and help to keep the users ear cool. Rubber earpieces are more common on in-the-ear headsets, as it helps to hold the headset in place.

Headsets range in price from under $20 to nearly $200 and beyond. The best known headset manufacturers include Ameriphone Clarity, Panasonic, Plantronics, Polycom, Walker, and Viking Electronics.

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